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Why there’s reason to think it’s do or die this week on the labor front

07.11.11 at 2:00 pm ET
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This could be the best week for NFL fans. Or it could be the more frustrating.

According to an ESPN report, the NFL and NFL Players Assocation are expected to reach an agreement that will be ratified during the July 21 league meetings in Atlanta. The report credits sources familar with the state of negotiations and quotes an unidentified owner as saying that there’s “no reason to believe it won’t get done.”

Patriots owner Robert Kraft, and his son Jonathan, have been key players at the negotiating table for the owners while the newly-retired Mike Vrabel, a member of all three Patriots Super Bowl-winning teams, has been at the table for the Players Association.

The Patriots are scheduled to open preseason the weekend of Aug. 11-15 with a home game against Jacksonville. They open the season Monday night Sept. 12 in Miami against the Dolphins.

Talks resumed Monday in New York City, with two key dates on the horizon.

Vacationing U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan has scheduled a meeting between the principles and their lawyers for July 19 in Minneapolis. Boylan adjudicated the court-ordered mediation in April and May and has presided over talks the last six weeks. Two days later, the owners have a meeting scheduled in Atlanta.

The ESPN story incudes some concern from a member of the players’ negotiating team, who indicated players feel they have made significant concessions “that have not been reciprocated,” and that “we’ve basically reached the limits of compromise.”

The players’ source told ESPN that the union agreed to cut rookie compensation in half but won’t agree to change the right for rookies to become free agents after four years in the league.

[Click here to listen to Chris Mortensen break down the rookie wage issue on Mut & Merloni on WEEI on Monday.]

He also indicated negotiations Wednesday and Thursday will be the most telling days on whether an agreement indeed will be finalized within the July 21 time frame because “we’ve basically reached the limits of compromise.”

The same source added that the players have agreed to cut rookie compensation in half but won’t agree to a deal that does not allow for the rookie class to become free agents at the end of four years. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Arthur Boylan, Dallas Cowboys, Jerry Jones, Jonathan Kraft

Former Patriot Mike Vrabel confirms retirement

07.11.11 at 9:47 am ET
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Former Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel confirmed on Monday that he is retiring from the NFL and taking a job as assistant coach at his alma mater, Ohio State.

In a statement released by his agent, Neil Cornrich, Vrabel announced: “After 14 years in the National Football League, I have decided to retire and accept the position of linebackers coach at The Ohio State University.

‘€œI am extremely appreciative of the teammates, coaches, and great fans who surrounded me during my NFL career, and am honored to have been a part of three tremendous organizations in the Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots, and Kansas City Chiefs.  I am especially grateful to Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli, who not only gave me the opportunity to play for a team that won three Super Bowl championships and an NFL record 21 games in a row, but also taught me invaluable lessons on creating the ultimate team approach.

‘€œI am very excited to become a part of Luke Fickell’€™s staff at Ohio State. I have great faith and trust in Luke leading the Buckeye football team as he represents all the core values integral for a program’€™s success, and I am looking forward to working with our student-athletes as I begin the next phase of my career.’€

Vrabel played eight seasons in New England after being signed as un unrestricted free agent before the 2001 season. In 125 regular-season games with the Pats, he had 604 tackles (411 solo), 28 sacks and 11 interceptions. He also lined up as a tight end in goal-line situations and caught eight passes ‘€” all for touchdowns. He also had TD receptions in the Patriots’ Super Bowl victories over the Panthers in 2004 and Eagles in 2005.

Read More: Mike Vrabel,

Players vote Tom Brady best player in NFL

07.03.11 at 9:51 pm ET
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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was ranked No. 1 on the NFL Network’s countdown of the top 100 players of 2011. Brady finished ahead of Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, who finished second. Adrian Peterson, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed rounded out the top five.

Brady was named MVP of the league for the second time in his career last season, leading the NFL with 36 touchdowns, a 111.0 rating and throwing only four interceptions. He holds the record for passing touchdowns in a season with 50, which he accomplished in the Patriots’ undefeated regular season in 2007.

Though the players chose Brady over Manning, the Colts quarterback finished first among fan voting, while Brady finished third behind Manning and Packers QB Aaron Rogers. In reacting to the final list, Brady  said, “to me, [Manning]’s the greatest of all time” in speaking with the NFL Network.

Brady was one of five Patriots players on the list, with three of his teammates finishing in the top 50. Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork was ranked No. 35, while guard Logan Mankins came in at No. 39. Wide receiver Wes Welker ranked 50th, while linebacker Jerod Mayo was chosen as the 62nd best player.

The list was chosen by the NFL players themselves, and the list was rolled out in a 10-part series. The rest of the top 10 consisted of Troy Polamalu, Andre Johnson, Darrelle Revis, Drew Brees and Julius Peppers, who finished No. 6-10.

Read More: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady,

Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis will present Tom Brady on NFL Network’s ‘Top 100′ Sunday

06.30.11 at 12:06 am ET
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The Patriots announced Wednesday night that Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis will present Tom Brady on Sunday’s final edition of the NFL Network’s “Top 100 Players” countdown, a list compiled by a players-only vote that features the best in the game.

Brady will be part of the Top 10, and the fifth New England player on the list ‘€” Vince Wilfork (35), Logan Mankins (39), Wes Welker (50) and Jerod Mayo (62) were all previously a part of the countdown. Mankins and Mayo were presented by Patriots coach Bill Belichick, while Wilfork had New Orleans linebacker Jonathan Vilma present him and Welker was presented by Buffalo coach Chan Gailey.

The show airs Sunday at 8 p.m. on NFL Network.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Chan Gailey, Jerod Mayo, Jonathan Vilma

Herm Edwards passionately breaks it down for NFL rookies at the symposium

06.29.11 at 9:39 pm ET
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The NFL’s annual rookie symposium is being held this week in Florida ‘€” by the looks of their Twitter feeds, several of the Patriots’ rookies are in attendance, including quarterback Ryan Mallett, offensive lineman Marcus Cannon and cornerback Ras-I Dowling. And while the big news was the fact that commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA chief DeMaurice Smith conducted a joint session with the rookies, the apparent highlight of Wednesday’s session was when former coach and current ESPN analyst Herm Edwards addressed the rookies.

Edwards’ talk, which was broadcast live on ESPN, was a passionate speech about the transition from the college game to the pro game, and the struggles that come along with that. The video from the event was just posted online, and is worth a look:

Read More: DeMaurice Smith, Herm Edwards, Ras-I Dowling, roger goodell

Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith address the rookies together

06.29.11 at 1:32 pm ET
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The positive signs just keep on coming: A week or so after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA chief DeMaurice Smith spoke to the media together at the conclusion of the talks between the owners and players at the Nantasket Beach Resort in Hull, the two were together again on Wednesday when they addressed the NFL rookie class at the NFLPA rookie symposium in Florida. (Former BC star Mark Herzlich tweeted a picture from the event, which can be seen here.) The two, who flew together to the event, are apparently continuing to meet on a regular basis in hopes of finding an end to the lockout.

After their chat with the rookies, the two briefly spoke with the media. Here’s a complete transcript of what they said, courtesy of NFLLabor.com:

Smith: ‘€œWe obviously spoke to the rookie class here at the Business of Football Symposium. We are not going to take questions but both of us wanted to come out and tell you that.  We’€™re continuing to work hard. Both of us felt that it was important to come down for this event. Obviously, what we are doing on the business of football on a macro scale is about getting a fair deal done and trying to get back to the game and business of football as quickly as possible. This event was important to ensure that our young men appreciated how important we think these few days are. I’€™m thrilled that Roger could come down with us and talk to the rookies in a very good, direct way.’€

Goodell: ‘€œIt was a great opportunity for us to be able to sit with the rookies. They obviously have lots of questions. We answered the questions as best we could. But you all know that we’€™re under certain restrictions. We’€™re taking a break because we felt it was important to be down here with the players. We both have great respect, obviously, for the players. This is an important few days. We’€™re going to get back to work.’€

Smith: ‘€œSo we’€™re going to go back in, to get back to work on other issues. Thank you all.’€

The lockout, which started in March, is the longest work stoppage in NFL history.

Read More: DeMaurice Smith, lockout, roger goodell,

Recalling the moment when Robert Kraft and Ty Law first got their groove on

06.29.11 at 9:47 am ET
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Patriots owner Robert Kraft was happy for Ty Law for several reasons on Tuesday night, including the fact that Law recognized his dancing skills. Kraft referenced his on-stage dance routine following the post-Super Bowl XXXVI parade at Government Center in Boston in February 2002. (Kraft’s boogie comes near the 2:50 mark, after Tom Brady and Bill Belichick do their thing.) Check out the video below for a walk down memory lane:

Read More: Bill Belichick, Robert Kraft, Tom Brady, Ty Law
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